Deutsche Bahn to electrify three routes in North Rhine-Westphalia

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Deutsche Bahn has announced plans to electrify three railway lines in North Rhine-Westphalia in western Germany as part of its ambitious goal to be carbon neutral by 2040.

The three railway lines to be electrified cover a total length of 113km and the work will be carried out at a “record pace of just three years,” Deutsche Bahn confirmed.

All three routes were almost completely devastated by floods in summer 2021, meaning they need complete reconstruction. Work on electrifying the Erfttalbahn, between Euskirchen and Bad Münstereifel, will begin this year. The Voreifelbahn from Bonn to Euskirchen and the Eifel line, from Hürth-Kalscheuren to Nettersheim, will follow by mid-2024.

In the future, environmentally friendly electric trains will be able to run on the three routes instead of diesel vehicles. To achieve this, DB is installing around 2,600 overhead line masts, stretching 210km of contact wire and building four new bridges. 

In addition, ten bridges and 21 culverts will be rebuilt, 23km of route will be renewed and 35 level crossings will be repaired. In the future, the infrastructure should be more resilient to extreme weather events. This includes bridge structures without central pillars, which offer as little attack surface as possible during floods.

To supply the routes with electricity, DB is using a new concept that significantly shortens planning and construction time. To do this, it is laying around 104km of cable and building around 26km of new cable ducts. This means there is no need to build new high-voltage lines, DB noted.

The construction work is expected to be completed by the end of 2026. The record pace is also made possible by legal exceptions in flood areas. For example, simplified conditions apply to planning law and procurement to quickly bring a further measure of normality back to the people in the areas affected by the floods. Financing comes from the federal government’s GFVG program. The federal government is providing €360m, and the state of North Rhine-Westphalia is contributing around €40m.

Around 65% of DB’s traction power is already supplied via renewable energy. This puts the company well above the public green electricity mix in Germany, which is currently less than 50%. Long-distance travelers in Germany have been using 100% green electricity since 2018.